Kara Hendrie decided to start a small catering business to complement her full-time job as a chef for a cafe in downtown Portland, in 2019. The side-gig started small but quickly grew into something that demanded more and more of her attention.
“I was like, ‘I’ll just start doing charcuterie boards for people,'” Hendrie said. “And then someone was like, ‘Can you come do dinner for me and my wife at my house?’ And then someone was like, ‘Can you do something for 10 people?’ And then it was 20 people, then 100 people.”
Several months ago, the Vancouver resident and professional chef came to the realization that her side gig was capable of becoming a full-time job, but required a space of its own in order to realize its true potential. She eventually found that space in downtown Washougal.
Miere Catering will open later this spring at 1801 Main St., Suite 101, Washougal (the former home of the Taberna NW delicatessen), offering full-scale catering services for weddings, corporate events, small parties and private dinners.
“I’m just trying to keep up with the growth, which is nice,” she said. “(Previously) we worked at a shared commissary in Vancouver and traveled around, and we got to the point where we were like, ‘Having our own space would be great.’ This building is super cool, and it’s a good size for what we were looking for. We have actual refrigeration for ourselves and an added bonus of a dining room, which we’re trying to figure out how to utilize. I walked in (for the first time) and I was like, ‘It’s got everything (that I need).’ And it seems like everyone in this area is really excited for something new on Main Street.”
The excitement of local residents forced Hendrie to rethink a big part of her business plan, in fact.
“We were just going to do catering, and then people kept randomly walking in the door and asking, ‘Do you have any sandwiches?’ They were really disappointed when I said it was just catering and we weren’t going to do anything (else),” Hendrie said. “But we have the dining room space, so I was like, ‘OK, I’d be happy to make something for everyone.’ I think it’s fun that people want something here and that maybe I could make something (for them to enjoy). I feel like it’s being forced on me at this point, which is fine. It’s really great. It’s been a nice bonus that I wasn’t expecting.”
Hendrie is planning to sell tickets and provide “prix fixe” menus (a pre-selected list of dishes at a set price) for the onsite dinners.
“Our season is really, really busy starting June, so we can’t really be open full time for dinners,” she said. “But we’ll put our sign out when we know we can do one and let people know that they can buy tickets here. I’m hoping people will be open to it. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Miere Catering specializes in “adventure elopement” wedding events, which have taken Hendrie all over the Pacific Northwest.
“That’s one of our niche things,” she said. “We go all the way up to Mount Baker or all the way down to Brookings, (Oregon), and people will hire a photographer for the day to elope, and they’ll have anywhere from two to 30 (guests). They still want to do a really nice dinner, so we’ll go set up a dinner for them on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere and do high-end private chef stuff in the wilderness.”
Hendrie also believes that her business distinguishes itself from its competitors because it offers “super customized” experiences.
“A lot of caterers or private chefs, you’ll reach out to them and they’ll just send you a list of options to choose from, but ours is a lot more curated,” she said “I don’t have set menus. I ask people what their preferences are, foods that they absolutely hate, and then make a customized menu, so it’s something different every time. And we do everything super-full service. We’ll do all your rentals, set up your flowers, make dog treats for your dog — whatever random thing you can come up with.”
Hendrie grew up in Massachusetts, trained at Metro Bis in Simsbury, Connecticut, and worked in several restaurants around the United States for several years before moving to the Portland area in 2019. In addition to her catering business, she works part-time as a chef aboard the Alaska Grandeur cruise ship.
“I kind of knew I was always going to cook and most likely try to do stuff on my own, just because I like the challenge, to my own detriment. I like the challenge too much sometimes,” she said. “I like feeding people. I like cooking food. I can’t stop doing it — it’s a problem at this point. But with the catering and everything, I just really enjoy the logistics of it. I like figuring out how to do something in a different place every time with a different setup, and doing something different for each client. It’s just so much more interesting than working in a restaurant and making the same menu every week.”
For more information about Miere Catering and its opening date, visit mierecatering.com or instagram.com/mierecatering.